Is Taylor Swift’s Revenge Song A Daring Pop Statement Or A Brilliant Marketing Move? – HuffPost
The past few years have been kind and kind of cruel to Taylor Swift. Her mega-selling 1989 album cemented her spot as one of the most-beloved women in pop music, a distinction she now shares with Beyonce and Adele. But unlike her fellow leading pop divas, Swift might simultaneously qualify as one of the genre’s most-hated female stars.
It’s hard to think of a more polarizing pop queen since the heyday of Britney Spears, or one who has been dogged by as much “controversy,” positive-to-negative press, love/hate commentary, and intense scrutiny of her personal life from one album to the next. Her last cycle included whirlwind courtships and break-ups (with Calvin Harris and Tom Hiddleston), a XXX “cameo” in Kanye West’s “Famous” single and video, a social-media showdown with West and his wife Kim Kardashian, and public mudslinging with the likes of Demi Lovato and Katy Perry.
What’s a most-beloved and most-hated pop star to do next? In Swift’s case, reinvent herself… again. On August 25, she previewed her forthcoming sixth album, Reputation (due November 10), with a new “groundbreaking” single, “Look What You Made Me Do.”
While the “groundbreaking” aspect is relative (remember, she began her musical life as a sweet-as-pie country star, so any pop move is still seen as daring for her), this might be her most meta, confessional work to date. Sure, she already has a reputation for going after exes in her lyrics, but this time she’s played her revenge game a little differently.
Swift nails everyone who has wronged her while nailing no one in particular. “I don’t like your little games/Don’t like your tilted stage/The role you make me play, the fool/No, I don’t like you,” she sings over a hypnotic electro groove that’s miles away from her country-pop beginnings but wouldn’t sound so out-of-place on an album by her pop frenemy Kate Perry. One can only imagine whose names are “in red, underlined” on her shit list.
She may be “smarter” and “harder,” but Swift is playing tough while (still) playing the victim. Clearly she hasn’t shaken anything off. The evolution is really all in the music, but some fans will be so busy speculating about the identity – or identities – of her tormentors (my money is on “Kimye”) that how they feel about her latest change in musical direction might be of secondary importance.
But about that change in musical direction – is it a good one? In the HuffPost article about the new song, one reader commented: “Im sure her fans will eat this up, but it was kinda lame to me. If any other female singer released this, no one would care…”
That’s actually the same thing I said about “Shake It Off” three years ago when it heralded her complete 1989 transition from country princess into pop queen. Would people have embraced it the way they did if it had been Meghan Trainor’s debut single? Yes, it’s catchy, but that doesn’t make it a great song. To my ears, it always sounded annoyingly jejune, like a musical sandcastle any tween could construct. One gust of wind and poof!… gone.
Despite covering similar thematic ground, “Look What You Made Me Do” sounds less juvenile and has a bit more gravitas. Swift’s delivery is breathier and sexier, like she’s trying to titillate us with her anger, which is definitely not something any tween would do with sand. It’s also not something Fearless– or even Speak Now-era Swift would have done. Our knowledge of her trajectory gives it inherent shock value.